The Week Junior Book Club
The Week Junior Book Club selects one book every month for kids and families to read and discuss together. See our most recent pick below!
November 2023 Book Club Pick
By Elly Swartz (Delacorte Press)
After years of hearing “you’re good for a girl, but not good enough to make the squad,” Dani lands a spot on her school’s baseball team. The sixth-grader is on cloud nine after her first team meeting. Then everything changes when a fire breaks out while on a camping trip with her best friend and neighbor, Eric. He pulls Dani to safety, but her leg and shoulder are badly hurt. At the hospital, Dani learns that she won’t be able to play baseball and will need to use a wheelchair until her body heals. At first, everyone thinks Eric is a hero for saving Dani’s life. Later on, Eric, who has a disorder that interferes with his ability to concentrate, confesses that he may have caused the fire by forgetting to turn off the stove. Dani lashes out at Eric and becomes friends with Meadow, a girl whose sister is in the hospital recovering from an accident. Meadow posts a video suggesting Eric caused the accident. But the whole truth hasn’t come out yet. In this nail-biting story that’s full of surprises, chapters alternate between the perspectives of Dani and Eric.
Talk about Hidden Truths
Hidden Truths gives readers a lot to think about when it comes to making mistakes, honesty, and forgiveness. These questions can help you talk about the book with others who have read it:
- Do you think Dani would have reacted differently to Eric’s confession if he had told her sooner? Why or why not?
- What would you say is the difference between lying and hiding the truth?
- Do you have more empathy for Dani or Eric? Explain your answer.
- How did Dani let Eric down as a friend?
- What kinds of bullying are portrayed in the story?
- Do you think Dani and Meadow’s friendship will last? Why or why not?
- Which of the story’s many twists surprised you the most and why?
October 2023 Book Club Pick
By Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz (Amulet Books)
After Nat played a lead role in the musical Wicked at camp, she thought she’d have to wait until next summer to be onstage again. But now her new middle school is putting on the musical Footloose. She decides she wants to audition for the role of Ariel, the main female character. The school is also planning to enter the show in a new theater competition, and the finalists will get to perform on Broadway! Trouble is, Footloose includes many dance numbers. Nat uses a wheelchair, and she’s worried that the complicated choreography may prevent her from landing the role. She knows she has to wow the director at the audition and plans to sing a duet with her friend Malik. Their friend Hudson helps them work on dance moves. Even though Malik barely makes it to the theater in time for the audition, he and Nat nail their performance. They make the cast, and Nat gets Ariel! But the rehearsals are full of drama (not the good kind), and Nat is tested in ways she never would have imagined. Packed with Broadway references, this uplifting book is the sequel to The Chance to Fly.
Talk about Cut Loose!
Cut Loose! explores the challenges of middle school friendships and going after your dreams. These questions can help you talk about the book with friends and family who have also read it:
- Some of Nat’s castmates think she landed the part of Ariel because of her disability. What’s your take?
- Do you think Hudson should have told Nat right away that he felt left out?
- After reading this book, what have you learned about challenges people who use wheelchairs may face?
- In what way did some of the adult characters in this book display poor behavior?
- Does this book inspire you in any way? If so, how?
- Are you satisfied with the ending? Why or why not?
September 2023 Book Club Pick
By Carl Hiaasen (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
On his way home from fishing, Wrecker spots a group of men on a speedboat that is stuck in a sandbar off the coast of Key West. The leader, who calls himself Silver Mustache, asks Wrecker if he will use his boat to tow theirs. But the speedboat is too heavy. Silver Mustache refuses Wrecker’s offer to call the Coast Guard for help. Believing they’re smugglers, Wrecker hopes to never see Silver Mustache again, but then Silver Mustache turns up in a graveyard where Wrecker works. Days later, Wrecker and his friend go fishing and discover that Silver Mustache’s boat has sunk. They dive in to examine the boat and discover the loot—it’s not what they imagined. Will Wrecker be able to free himself from Silver Mustache? With subplots about the pandemic, racism, and the environment, this book is more complex than the author’s Newbery Honor–winning Hoot. Ages 12 and up
Talk about Wrecker
Packed with twists, thrills, and a big cast of characters, Wrecker gives you a lot to talk about with friends and family who have also read the book. Here are some questions to get the conversation rolling:
- Would you have accepted money from Silver Mustache? Why or why not?
- What positive and negative qualities does Wrecker have?
- How does the author describe Key West, Florida?
- What adult character do you like the most? Why?/li>
- Which parts of the book do you think are funny?
- Why do you think the author included facts and history about the Florida Keys in the fictional storyline?
- What is the main idea of the environmental subplot? Do you agree with it or not?
August 2023 Book Club Pick
No One Leaves the Castle
By Christopher Healy (Walden Pond Press)
When a baron’s priceless emerald heirloom goes missing, his butler hires the Lilac to track it down. The butler thinks the Lilac is a famous bounty hunter, but she’s really the 14-year-old sister of Prince Charming. The Lilac locates a wizard who may have something to do with the crime. The heirloom is mysteriously returned, and everyone is invited to stay at the baron’s mansion for dinner. Not long after, the heirloom disappears again and one of the dinner party guests turns up dead. The Lilac must figure out which of the 12 suspects stole the heirloom and killed the guest. This mystery is chock full of hidden agendas, twists, and red herrings that will keep kids guessing until the last chapter.
Talk about No One Leaves the Castle
Loaded with surprising twists, No One Leaves the Castle is fun to discuss with family and friends who have also read the book. Here are some questions to get the conversation started.
- Who did you think the culprit was going to be and why?
- Did any clues throw you off the right track? If so, which ones?
- What magical element did you think was the most clever?
- How do you think the Lilac grows as a person throughout the story?
- Did you like the voice of the narrator? Why or why not?
- Which character’s secret surprised you the most and why?
- Why do you think the author included humor in the book?
The Week Junior’s Summer of Reading campaign has begun! Click here for our list of the 50 Books Kids Love Most, which we created based on the suggestions of more than 150 kids from across the country. Find out how to participate in our reading challenge to win prizes and get to know our Author Ambassadors.
June 2023 Book Club Pick
Lei and the Fire Goddess
By Malia Maunakea (Penguin Workshop)
Every summer, Anna travels from her home in Colorado to spend a few weeks with her grandmother, who lives in a remote village in Hawaii. Her grandmother believes in Hawaiian curses, but 12-year-old Anna doesn’t. On a walk in the forest with her friend Kaipo, Anna picks a special type of flower that her grandmother has warned her will upset Pele, the fire goddess. To Anna’s surprise, removing the flower triggers an earthquake and sets off a volcanic eruption. Then a giant hawk kidnaps Kaipo. Could her grandmother have been right all along, or is what happened a coincidence? Anna goes on the adventure of a lifetime as she tries to rescue Kaipo and save her grandmother’s house from a path of lava. Talking animals, shape-shifting, and a big family secret are all part of the action. Plus, there are a couple of huge twists involving the main characters. If you like reading about mythology, you won’t be able to put this book down. You’ll get a glimpse into Hawaiian culture, myths, legends, and food through the book’s many characters.
Talk about Lei and the Fire Goddess
From complex characters to surprising twists, there’s a lot to talk about with friends and family who have also read this fantasy novel. Use these questions to kick off your conversation.
- Do you think Anna should have to go visit her grandmother in Hawaii every summer? Why or why not?
- What strategies could Anna use to feel more confident about her heritage around her classmates?
- How could Anna be a better friend to Kaipo?
- Did this book remind you of any other stories you’ve read? If so, which ones?
- What mystical element of the story appeals to you the most?
- Were you surprised by Pele’s behavior? Why or why not?
- How does Anna grow as a person in the story?
May 2023 Book Club Pick
The One and Only Ruby
By Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao (Harper)
Ruby, a young elephant, has a secret: She hates her tusks. For the other elephants who live at a wildlife sanctuary, tusks are a big deal. They even hold a Tuskday ceremony when a little elephant’s tusks come in. But Ruby hides when it’s time to practice for the ceremony. Tusks are the reason her mom is no longer alive. Ruby was born in the African savanna, and poachers killed her mom so they could get her tusks and sell them. (Elephant tusks are made of ivory, a valuable material.) For the first time, Ruby tells her animal friends, Ivan and Bob, exactly what happened during her first few weeks of life. Talking about her past helps Ruby embrace her future. Will she be able to go through with the ceremony? While this story is the third title in the One and Only Ivan series, you don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy it. You may feel sad reading about Ruby’s past, but there are plenty of jokes to lighten the mood. The illustrations that depict the body language of the elephants are fascinating.
Talk about The One and Only Ruby
Written in first person from the point of view of a young elephant, this emotional story lends itself to discussion with friends and family who have also read the book. Here are some questions to help get your book club conversation started.
- Should Ruby have to attend the tusk ceremony? Why or why not?
- What did you learn about Ruby from her body language?
- How is Ruby’s personality different from Ivan’s?
- What do you think was the story’s turning point?
- How have the hardships in Ruby’s life made her stronger?
- What do you think are the top challenges that elephants face?
- How did this book make you feel?
- Is this your favorite book in the series? Why or why not?
April 2023 Book Club Pick
Elf Dog & Owl Head
By M.T. Anderson (Candlewick Press)
When the pandemic shuts down school, Clay misses seeing his friends. His two sisters are also getting on his nerves. He walks into the woods near his house to play Frisbee by himself, which he knows is pointless. That’s when he finds an unusual white dog with a jeweled collar. After playing fetch, Clay realizes there’s something magical about the dog. She can retrieve the Frisbee without Clay seeing her do it. It’s his first sign that the woods are enchanted. He soon learns that it holds magical paths, an underground kingdom, an owl-headed society, and a Giant. Clay returns home with the dog and tells his family the dog is an “elf-hound.” Clay and Elf Dog have adventures in the woods. Several times, they run into unfriendly creatures. Clay gets help from his family and a new friend. Will Clay and his dog get to stay together? This book’s descriptions may make you feel like you’re part of the action. Since the story is told in the third person, you’ll learn about how all the characters feel. The ending is suspenseful and satisfying.
Talk about Elf Dog & Owl Head
Blending fantasy and realistic fiction, this novel takes place during the first few months of the pandemic in 2020. It lends itself to discussion with friends and family who have also read the story. Here are some questions to help get your book club conversation started.
- Which of the three siblings in the story could you most relate to and why?
- Do you think the Giant is wise? Why or why not?
- What magical element from the book do you wish was real?
- Do you think Clay should have helped Elf Dog return home? Why or why not?
- How do the siblings’ relationships with one another change during the summer?
- What do you think the drawings add to the story?
March 2023 Book Club Pick
By Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic)
It’s 1912 and the Titanic is setting sail from England to New York in this historical fiction story about 12-year-old Hazel. Without enough money to buy a ticket, Hazel sneaks on board. Her plan is to get to America so she can work in a factory and send back money to her family in England. While hiding in the part of the ship that holds cargo, she overhears crew members talking about a coal fire in the boiler room. She walks upstairs to a section of the ship for third-class passengers and meets a boy who helps her blend in with other passengers. Hazel, who dreams of becoming a journalist someday, begins asking questions about the construction and safety of the ship, which people had bragged was unsinkable. She takes notes and hopes to write a story in America. But before she gets there, her worst fears come true. Will she and the people she met make it off the ship? This story includes fascinating details about icebergs and how the fire on the ship made the Titanic less able to withstand the impact of an iceberg. There’s also a mystery sub-plot that you may find entertaining.
Talk about Iceberg
Although the characters in Iceberg are fictional, many of the book’s details are true. The fast-paced story lends itself to a discussion with others who have read the story. Here are some discussion questions kids and families can use:
- Would you have snuck onto the Titanic if you were Hazel?
- What details about how the Titanic was constructed surprised you the most?
- In your opinion, what was the most suspenseful part of the story?
- What skills does Hazel have that would make her a good journalist?
- If you could rewrite this book from another character’s point of view, who would it be and why?
- Were you satisfied with the book’s ending?
February 2023 Book Club Pick
The Windeby Puzzle
By Lois Lowry, illustrations by Jonathan Stroh (Clarion Books)
The format of this book may be unlike anything you’ve ever read. It contains two fictional stories and three nonfiction chapters. It begins with the true story of German workers who found bones inside a peat bog (a type of wetlands) in 1952. Scientists determined the bones were from the 1st century, during a time period called the Iron Age. They believed these bones belonged to a small teenager they called the Windeby Girl. In the next chapter, author Lois Lowry creates a story about what happened to the girl, whom she names Estrild. Wanting to be a warrior even though it would have been forbidden, Estrild strives to break out of the expected female role. In doing so, she seals her fate. The next nonfiction chapter explains that 20th-century technology has revealed a surprising twist about the Windeby Girl. Based on that discovery, Lowry writes a second fictional story from a new point of view. The book’s blend of fact and fantasy may give you a fresh perspective on history. Ages 10+
Talk about The Windeby Puzzle
Discussion questions kids and families can use:
- What do you think happened to the Windeby Girl?
- Did you like how the chapters alternated between fiction and nonfiction? Why or why not?
- If you could give Estrild’s story a different ending, what would it be?
- Which character do you think showed the most bravery and why?
- How did the illustrations before each chapter help set the tone?
- Some of Lois Lowry’s books have been turned into films. Do you think this book would make a good movie?
January 2023 Book Club Pick
Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy
By Megan Reyes (Labyrinth Road)
Every 25 years, the village of Gerbera sends its king to the Land of Dragons. Legend has it that the fiery beasts eat the king and, in return, the dragons maintain peace with the village. That’s how it’s been for nearly 1,000 years. But this time, the king dies just before his journey. The knights argue about who will take his place. It is determined that Blue, a 12-year-old orphan who works in a horse stable, will be quickly crowned king and sent off to Dragon Mountain. When Blue gets there, a twist happens. Eventually, he teams up with three other children—including a runaway witch—to make lasting peace among the dragons, humans, and magical forces. The chapters switch perspectives, making you aware of different points of view, and the story’s magic, such as being able to smell emotions like fear and joy, is very cool. The book is the first in a series and ends on a cliff-hanger.
Talk about Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy
Discussion questions kids and families can use:
- How are the dragons in this book different from those in other books you’ve read?
- Which character do you think showed the most bravery and why?
- How do you think the heroes in this book learned from one another?
- Can differences among people be an advantage to friendships? Why or why not?
- What secret that was revealed surprised you the most and why?
- Did you feel satisfied by the ending? Why or why not?
November 2022 Book Club Pick
Mihi Ever After
By Tae Keller, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez (Henry Holt and Co.)
During recess, Mihi likes pretending to be a princess. Her friend thinks fourth graders are too old to play make-believe. Wanting to be like Snow White, Mihi climbs an apple tree anyway. She gets in trouble with the playground monitor and is sent to the library. There, she meets Savannah and Reese, two girls who also like princess stories. They take candy from the librarian’s refrigerator. After eating it, the inside of the refrigerator turns into a rainbow forest. They step into the forest and learn that they are in the Rainbow Realm, a magical place. They see Cinderella’s mice, who tell them that they can train to be princesses and could get their own fairy tale. But everything is not what it seems. When Mihi realizes they may be trapped there, she will have to choose between being a princess or having friends. This story is the first in a new series. It may make you question popular princess tales.
Talk about Mihi Ever After
Discussion questions kids and families can use:
- Should kids be allowed to play make-believe as long as they want to?
- Why is it unfair of Mihi’s classmates to tell her that she’s not the princess type?
- Do you think Mihi is treated differently because she is Korean American?
- What could Mihi have done to be a better friend to Savannah and Reese?
- Should Mihi have told Sleeping Beauty to wear gloves?
- Would you have given away your locket if you were Mihi—or not?
October 2022 Book Club Pick
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diper Överlöde
By Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books)
Greg’s older brother, Rodrick, takes center stage in the 17th book in this popular series. When Rodrick enters his rock band Löded Diper into a Battle of the Bands contest, he asks Greg to be a “roadie.” Greg accepts because he thinks being the brother of a famous musician is better than being a celebrity himself. Shortly before the band goes onstage for their first gig in more than a year, Rodrick realizes he left his drumsticks at home. He sends Greg to find a new pair, and this turns into a hilarious misadventure. When the band finally starts playing, the lead singer forgets most of the lyrics. They’ll need more jam sessions and luck to beat the other groups, especially a surprise competitor. The ending is epic! The drawings throughout the book contain many laugh-out-loud details, so be sure to look at them closely.
Talk about Diper Överlöde
Discussion questions kids and families can use:
- Did Greg act wimpy in this book? In what way?
- Was Greg’s reason for helping the band selfish? Should the band have paid Greg to help?
- Should Greg have told his brother that he didn’t think some of the band’s ideas would work out?
- What else could Löded Diper have done to become popular?
- Was it fair that the band’s singer didn’t get to sing his favorite songs?
- What part made you laugh the most?